During the last decade of his life, Thomas Merton corresponded with people around the globe about world religions and the need for interfaith understanding. Initiating contact with figures like Zen scholar D.T. Suzuki, Thich Nhat Hanh, and Rabbi Abraham Heschel, he sought not only to expand his understanding of other faiths, but to find like-minded friends who might share his dream of a global community of the spirit. Such people, whom he called living "sacraments" or signs of peace, were those "able to unite in themselves and experience in their own lives all that is best and most true in the numerous spiritual traditions."
William Apel is professor of religious studies at Linfield College, Oregon.